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Numbers don’t matter? Do they? May 8, 2017

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It is easy to get in to the numbers game, not just the counting…ignoring them to. You cannot stand at the extremes, numbers do matter but we have to be careful what the narrative behind them is.

Last week we began our new missional community and, with all faith, said that even if nobody outside of family turned up, we would be happy. This soon changed as we had a number of people who committed to attend – 14 in all and my hopes had been raised, space would be a challenge and we were going to have an incredible start. On the day, we had 9 in total – but not from the group that had committed – just 3 from there. It was a fabulous start and I was (initially at least) disappointed.

Numbers are a guide, they cannot and should not be ignored. However, we must be careful to listen to the narrative behind the numbers and look at the long term success or failure. Jesus was deserted and by the time of his crucifixion was completely alone…..years later, the world was changed and numbers are beyond counting now. We need to track our numbers and learn what the figures say but the spreadsheet should not determine direction of travel or key decisions, for this we need the story.

There were good reasons why a number of folk did not turn up for our first meeting, we will be logging the numbers in the next few months and see the trends. However, they will not prevent us sticking to the calling at hand. We will see a community of believers transforming this area because God is at work and his faithful friends are serving. Some of these things can be counted, some cannot.

Numbers matter but numbers alone are a noose around our neck. They are a part of the story, not the whole. Numbers matter, do not let anyone tell you otherwise.

 

 

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Cricklewood April 11, 2017

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Cricklewood“>

The Posture of a Learner March 17, 2017

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In my previous post on starting a missional community from scratch the first point was to “adopt the posture of a learner” but what does this mean? How do we do this?

Adopting the posture of a learner demands patience, time, listening, observation and most of all, an attitude of continuous learning.  When you are in a new environment and do not know people, where do you begin? How do you progress?

  1. Observe: where do people gravitate to? Watch were people go shopping, where they gather to relax, which community events are on, what is happening within the community. This will teach something of the lifestyle of the people around you.
  2. Listen: As you open up conversations, listen to what people are saying and why they are saying those things. This is critical in listening and most often forgotten. As you listen, assume that you know nothing, put aside your own viewpoints, your own learning. The people whom you are listening to are the professors and you are the child in kindergarten – this may help you to listen well.
  3. Patience and Time: Do not rush your listening, you will never have all the answers and if you jump to the wrong conclusions you will find yourself less effective. Time is the greatest gift that you give to your community.
  4. Attitude of Continuous Learning: There is not a time when you know it all, the community constantly changes (especially if it is living!) and the answers from a previous season do not always translate to the latest season. We are all aware of people who have stopped learning and growing, their stagnation smells horrific, don’t become that person but be willing to learn afresh, change your ways and act accordingly.

The posture of a learner keeps you humble and prevents you from “lording it over others” – missional communities should be a place where we are constantly in change, growing, developing and loving. Adopt the position of a learner and see what happens…..you may be glad you did.

Starting a Missional Community from scratch February 28, 2017

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You know that you want you community to be a place where Jesus is seen and accepted but how do you begin with a missional community. Most communities start with a team but there are occasions when you have nobody…..what then?

1)Adopt the posture of a learner – it can be easy to make assumptions and to think that you know a community well. However, demographic studies, stats, maps and more stats are no replacement for legwork in the community and getting under the skin of the place. You need to be ready to learn more, listen more, observe continually and accept things may be different to what you perceive. Be ready to learn, be willing to learn and spend a great deal of time listening. Adopt a learning attitude.

2)Seek someone who will inform you – who is the person of peace, someone who imbibes the community, who will share their knowledge and is a friend. They do not necessarily hold your beliefs of faith but they are willing to share with you. Their willingness usual strengthens when you adopt the posture of a learner and not that of  teacher.

3) Build relationships – as you talk with people, seek them out again, develop friendships, go deeper and let this rootedness in the community help you to flourish. Not all relationships will be tight, see it more of a spiders web with a central strength and a growing network beyond the fringes. Relationships are critical.

These first three steps are very practical and the holy people reading will ask, ‘what about prayer?’ Prayer is the most necessary component and I have assumed it will underpin, surround and inhabit everything. Without prayer you have nothing and the steps above only help begin a social club, not a missional community. Prayer is the blood running through our veins….do not abandon it.

All the above takes time….it is worth it!

 

 

Praying for the Gospel Workers of London January 12, 2016

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I am so fortunate to work for a Christian organisation (London City Mission) that has a high emphasis on Gospel proclamation. We are engaged in good works but we place a higher priority on sharing the message of salvation in Christ and the need for repentance, in order that we can live an abundant life that brings glory to God. It is an exciting place to work because we work in partnership across the Church in London and serve in some communities that do not necessarily have easy opportunity to hear the gospel in an accessible way. As a result, our team are innovators who look at every opportunity to present the gospel message, clearly, succinctly and in a host of different ways, and respond with patient perseverance amongst the variety of people within their communities. They are an inspiration and bring transformation to the places where they work, there are not many places where you could say the same about your colleagues!

Last week, we began the year with a week of prayer, something which is an annual event in the life of London City Mission, that enabled us to focus on our faith in God, our need for God and the desire to be rooted in Christ in all that we do. We recognise the need for God’s strengthening and enabling in our ministry and so prayer is a vital part of daily routine. Will you pray with us? Will you pray for us? London needs Jesus and we value the support of all those who can stand with us in this vital ministry to London. Our team produce a daily prayer diary (download here) which can help fuel your prayers, please feel free to partner with us – if you already do, thank you. Your prayers are making a difference.

Prayer in Abundance July 6, 2015

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Rev. Dr. Choi led a team of prayer warriors in the UK. Koreans know how to pray!

Nasmith Quote June 13, 2015

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“I desire to find the right path, and walk in it, by night, in sunshine and cloud, in storm
and calm. The Lord being my helper, I go on. I know it is all in love. I am in my Father’s hands.” David Nasmith

Statements of Faith are inadequate! May 16, 2015

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When it comes to mission initiatives and ‘reaching people for Christ’ in the least reached or unreached places we need to see people as Jesus did….not through the spectacles of faith statements. It is too easy for us to adopt a statement but when we seek to partner with others we soon discover that our missiology or church politic interprets the statement in a different way to our prospective partner. Meanwhile, the least reached remain unreached because of our own bias. 

We need a generation who will think in a different way and will march to the beat of a different drum. For the sake of the lost, can we see through Jesus lenses?

Statements of faith alone are inadequate…..

People of Courage May 9, 2015

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An article that I wrote for Changing London Magazine (Spring 2015) – the magazine of London City Mission

People of courage

A foundation of faith

Over the last twelve months we have – rightly – seen numerous references to ‘men of valour’ and heard of innumerable acts of courage during commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.

Courage takes many forms, however. The Bible narrative which speaks most clearly of a courageous life is that of Caleb, son of Jephunneh, who we read about in just a few passages of scripture – primarily Numbers 13-14 and Joshua 14. The
life of Caleb is marked out as one of courageous perseverance in the face of hardship as he lived a life of radical obedience to God. This life was built on a foundation of faith, enabling Caleb to stand firm for God and push through, whatever the cost – so
much so that God says of him, ‘Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly’ (Numbers 14:24). Caleb’s trust in God was a foundation stone for all he did, and proved to be a marker for a life which was exceptional in many ways.

Standing firm

Caleb knew what it meant to stand firm for the word of God. He was among the spies sent out into the Promised Land. After forty days in a foreign land, the spies came back with stories of a land flowing with milk and honey but
inhabited by giants. Of the spies, it was Caleb who saw the difficulty but recognised the hand of God and honoured God’s word that the people of Israel would take the land. The stand he took with Joshua almost led to their death by stoning, and the Lord had
to intervene. Caleb stood firm and exhorted the people to not rebel against the Lord (Numbers 14:9). People of courage stand firm for the truth: they hold on to the word of the Lord, and they are immovable in this.

One example of this in London City Mission can be seen at Forest Gate. Our old centre is next door to a beautifully modern Sikh temple and just a few doors away from a well-attended mosque. On a daily basis, we have seen the staff here
stand firm for truth in the midst of hostility and misunderstanding. It takes courage to work here, but we have a God who stands with us as we act as salt and light in the community.

Pushing through

The result of Caleb’s courage? Forty years of ‘ordinary’. The people of Israel walked the desert for forty years, and all of Caleb’s friends and peer group (except Joshua) died. For forty years, Caleb was not heard of within
the people of Israel’s narrative, apart from a few references to his faithfulness; he walked, toiled and laboured along with his fellow countryfolk. He lived on a diet of manna and quail, but knew first-hand of the fruit of the land which was so close. Caleb
had been in the Promised Land, he had walked its paths and tasted its fruit, yet, we hear no word of complaint or bitterness from him as he waits forty years for the promises of God to be fulfilled. His life was ordinary within the context of the people, but
the foundation of faith remained strong. Faithful in the daily routine, plodding on through the desert years, waiting for God’s moment. This is courageous perseverance in the extreme.

We recently heard the story of a man, S, who first came into contact with the Mission twenty years ago. For twenty years one of our missionaries prayed for him. Last year, this man came to faith in Jesus. For twenty years, the ordinary
life remained trusting in God, in prayer, before a wonderful transformation was seen. Praise the Lord!

Whatever the cost

At the end of the narrative, Caleb comes to Joshua and reminds him of the word of the Lord from the previous generation. Caleb is still eager to do battle in his old age, still willing to take the difficult land and still recognising
it is God’s will he is serving. This was the last of the conquest; Caleb had sacrificed his own agenda for the sake of God and the people; he was willing to pay any price to see God’s name honoured and glorified.

Caleb’s life story is one of costly forbearance, where he risks stoning, faces forty years of ‘ordinary’, battles for others before himself and puts aside his own agenda to serve God.

Mission work is costly for the individuals who serve. I am regularly astounded by the work of our staff team at London City Mission as they give themselves for the sake of the Lord, so that they may share the gospel with others. It is not
just the staff members but their families, too, who share in this ministry: children taunted at school because they are part of the ‘God squad’; spouses who have to cope with ‘all hours ministry’; the list is endless. Yet we have a team of dedicated people
who serve consistently with courage and perseverance, whatever the cost.

So Caleb’s story helps us to see what it means to be people of courage – people who will stand firm, push through, whatever the cost, for the sake of Christ and the gospel.

Such courage can be found daily in the streets and on the estates of London. The men and women of London City Mission, whose stories often remain untold, supporting vulnerable people as they seek to survive each day, coming alongside local
estate residents who share their harrowing life stories, sacrificing the ‘good life’ – a career in a well-paid profession, a comfortable life in a beloved home town – so they may tell of the transforming love of Jesus to London’s least reached communities.

We are grateful for those who stand with us in this not-so-glamorous ministry to the least reached of London. Thank you for partnering with us in this gospel outreach. 

Courage, Perseverance and Urban Mission May 6, 2015

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This is a short post based on a short extract of a sermon I gave at London City Mission in January 2015.

Urban mission requires great courage, but what does Godly courage look like?

The story of Caleb helps us understand what Godly courage looks like. He stood firm and pushed through, whatever the cost – so much so that God says of him, ‘Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly’ (Numbers 14:24).

People of courage stand firm in the truth.

Caleb stood firm in the word of God. After forty days in a foreign but promised land, the Israelite spies to Canaan came back, hands laden with good fruit but hearts filled with fear. The land was rich and plentiful, flowing with milk and honey but inhabited by giant hostile men! Most dared not go back and sowed doubt into the hearts of God’s people.  But although Caleb saw the difficulty, he bravely urged them, along with Joshua, to have faith in God’s word about the Promised Land and claim their inheritance.

The cost of his courage? Near stoning by his own people had God not intervened!

Our old centre in Forest Gate is squeezed between a beautifully modern Sikh temple and a well-attended mosque. On a daily basis, London City Mission staff courageously stand firm here for gospel truth in the midst of hostility and misunderstanding, knowing God’s promise of victory stands with them as they serve Christ.

People of courage push through to the end.

Caleb’s reward for his courage? Forty years of an ‘ordinary’ life, not mentioned in the Bible: faithful in the daily routine, plodding on through the desert years, waiting for God’s moment. He remained faithful right to the end, still eager to do battle, still willing to take the difficult land and still choosing God’s word and will above his own.

I’m regularly astounded by our team at London City Mission as they give their lives to sharing the gospel with others. Their families also pay a price; children taunted for being in the ‘God squad’ and spouses coping with ‘all-hours ministry’. We applaud these courageous men and women who take on this not-so-glamorous side of ministry to London. Day after day, their stories often untold, they faithfully support vulnerable people struggling to survive, share the pain of the harrowing life stories of local estate residents and sacrifice the ‘good life’ of comfort and well paid careers to tell of the transforming love of Jesus to London’s least reached.

Like Caleb, these people of courage stand firm and push through, whatever the cost, for the sake of Christ and the gospel.